Handball’s last minute problem (Part 1): Time to add the Technical Penalty Shot

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a diatribe on Handball’s last minute, but hopefully it will be one of my last. The recent actions by Gunnar Prokop to step out on the court to stop a fast break is just the most recent and egregious example of the shenanigans that take place all too often in the closing seconds of a Handball match.

As I explained last year http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.651, intentionally fouling or disrupting play in an unsportsmanlike way is often the smart move tactically, as it can preserve a win or draw either by stopping a fast break or by taking a few precious seconds off the clock and allowing your defense to get organized. Sure, you get a 2 minute suspension or even a red card, but so what, you’ve won the game. Often, there are “after the match” penalties, but as long as you don’t go totally whacko (i.e., like Gunnar Prokop did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEB9B9MDQr8 ) the worst you’re looking at is a one game suspension.

For most of a match, the “two minute suspension” is a very effective deterrent for excessive fouls or unsportsmanlike play. Sure, you might stop or delay the other team from scoring for that one instance, but that short term benefit is easily negated by the repercussion of playing short a man for the next two minutes. That cost/benefit analysis, however, only works for the first 59:30 of a match at which point the repercussions of a two minute penalty start to decrease exponentially to the point where hacking or tackling a player getting ready to throw off at mid-court or stepping on the court to stop a fast break is the smart move.

So, Handball needs to figure out whether they want to keep the unsportsmanlike foul as a “clever” part of the game or figure out a rule change to stop it. Hmmm. What to do? At this point anyone even just casually familiar with the game of basketball is probably thinking, “Duhhh. Why don’t they just give those guys a “technical?”

For those not familiar with basketball rules, a technical foul is awarded for unsportsmanlike actions and the offended team is awarded either 1 or 2 free throws (depending on the league) and then gets possession of the ball. A pretty stiff penalty and one that is virtually never seen in the waning moments of a close basketball game. The reason, of course, is that it’s tantamount to throwing the game away.

If it works for basketball, I say try it for Handball. As I envision it, a Technical Penalty Shot would be awarded for any action that results in an immediate red card. In addition to the standard two minute suspension and the player/coach being removed permanently from the match, the offended team would also get a penalty shot, followed by possession of the ball at half court. Add the Technical Penalty Shot to the rules, and trust me, we would immediately see players at the end of an exciting match, actually playing the game instead of trying to figure out how to disrupt it. It seems so obvious, I’m scratching my head as to why it hasn’t been implemented yet.

I’ve had some email back and forth with my colleague, Christer Ahl, the former Chair of the IHF Playing Rules Commission and he notes that Penalty shots were at one time awarded for other than shooting infractions, but that it got too out of hand, resulting in a change to the current, less stringent rules. He also intimates that there’s a real desire to keep Handball’s identity and rules apart from other sports. I, however, just don’t get it. As both Christer and I love a good argument we’re planning to discuss this further. Stay tuned. I can’t wait to hear what arguments he could possibly use to defend the current rules.

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